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Week 6A: Designing the Remainder of Our Syllabus Together

Anne Dalke's picture

This week, we'll be thinking concretely together how to answer Peggy McIntosh's challenge to use our school studies to "redefine and reconstruct history to include us all." Please read all of your classmates' papers, and then record your reactions here. Don't just respond to individual recommendations which please or trouble you, but begin to think more largely about the patterns, desires and problems you notice when you begin to imagine constructing a class out of (what I hope will be!) a wide variety of interests and hopes.

holsn39's picture

my view on activism


I think I have a different idea of what "studying activism" might be like or encompass.  I don't think activism has to imply protests, going out and starting a social movement, or even being radical.  What is important though is that the class inspires activism (or maybe just "activity"), in the community or within you. I think if you want an educational experience to be completely fulfilling it must be (ideally) stimulating mentally, physically, physiologically, socially, politically, and this kind of complete stimulation comes from pushing our boundaries, our comfort zones sometimes being threatened, and lots of questioning. If people agree with me that they want to push themselves, to expose themselves to new ideas and information that can inspire them to become an activist and/or to change something about themselves, than I think studying activism is crucial. I think it is important to expose us to the most radical movements out there, to hear radical theories and to try to understand them and not just dismiss them as the opinions of "eccentrics." Everything that we are learning was once (and still is in many ways) radical and comes from social movements and activism, the work of "eccentrics".  Maybe some people feel like we have already touched this subject but I feel like there is still so much that I have only ever been exposed to culturally (like though music and art) and would like to examine in a more academic setting. I don't think studying activism should a single focus for the rest of the year but it should definitely be included. This could be in the form of reading about other actions people are taking to enact change, looking for art, music, film, literature, poems, anything that expresses people's (not always "academic" focused) passionate beliefs.  If we remain ignorant of what's radical (relative to the topic of gensex) then we are minimizing our perspective. I enjoy learning about radical movements because they empower me, make me feel like we have agency as people to change ourselves, change the world, and find freedom of self-expression unlike any other source. When we hear about action that other people are taking around us to change themselves or bring social change then we no longer feel content being idle.  We are can be inspired by our peers, our own generation of activists to bring our own voices into the fight for freedom.  I think that if people really don't want to study radical movements then I will continue to do so on my own and would be happy to share information that I find with everyone on the blog. I completely understand that everyone has a different opinion on what they're going to get the most out of from this class so maybe we won't include it in the end if people aren't as interested as I am.  I get that.
Radical doesn't have to be one sided. There are an infinite number of forms radicalism can be represented and an infinite number of perspectives that sometimes agree with us and other times don't.  In some ways I think we are going to be learning about activism no matter what but it could be valuable to intentionally look as cutting edge fresh activism.
I guess I agree with eshaw in that it's important to have an "activist" stance. But as some level that is everyone's own endeavor. I'm only posting this for the song itself, not the speech.


holsn39's picture

I've decided to incorporate

I've decided to incorporate what I want to learn about into my final project and I'm veyr excited about it. I think it might be more effective anyways.

Thanks everyone for contributing to the creation of our syllaship. I think it will be very interesting and activate our minds effectively. :)

w0m_n's picture

<!--[if gte mso

     In doing all this work to design the syllabus, one thing I noticed most of all is this need to push into the "space" outside of our own experiences. Be it in actual space such as other countries, or gendered spaces like masculinity and genderqueer. There also seems be a desire to use information about the world ourselves to bridge to gap between these two spaces, i.e. activism. It's interesting how much our papers seem to be a response to the first article we read in class, by Mark C. Taylor, The End of the University As We Know it. I remember somewhere in it he alludes to this change in direction of how academia is targeting there explorations instead of focusing in more and more discrete areas, tiny "spaces" such as a dissertation on the citations of medieval manuscripts. It also signifies for me the contemporary movement to think of history and experience as a continuum of interations that are constant informing and reforming our identities.



justouttheasylum's picture

Syllaship (Because a bus isn't big enough)

Week 1: Language & History

  • Tues: The Bible, Koran & Torah
  • Thurs: Stein; Land and Kitzinger

Week 2: Masculinity

  • Tues: Kiesling; Corbett
  • Thurs: Levy

Week 3: Queerness & Transgender & Intersex

  • Tues & Thurs: Middle Sex

Week 4: International Issues in Gender & Sexuality

  • This Bridge Called My Back; "Crimes of Honour"

Week 5: Look at Our World in Preparation for Activism

-Popular Culture

rae's picture

syllaship. :)

partly, i just wanted to comment because i like your word "syllaship." and then i realized i had some actual comments.

firstly, i guess, is that my group, at least, wasn't really interested in language or history or religion (not saying that we need to do what my group came up with, but i just wanted to mention it).

about week 2, i'm not entirely sure which books you're talking about (other than Corbett's Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities, which looks interesting). i googled Levy and masculinity and came up with Re-membering Masculinity in Early Modern Florence. maybe you're referring to a completely different person (and possibly an article because that's a lot of reading).

also, i know this probably sounds like relentless agenda-pushing or something, but it might be interesting to look at masculinity through the lens of a book like Judith Halberstam's Female Masculinity or Morty Diamond's From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond. new perspective. just a thought. i've actually never read either, so i have no particular attachment to them.

as to week 3, Middlesex looks interesting, and i will likely read it at some point in time, but...(from the reviews found on amazon) it just doesn't seem like anything really new and progressive. also, it might be good to at least look at something by Kate Bornstein, since i really think that'll be an amazing opportunity. 

and i don't mean to be to seem like i'm attacking you or anything. i direct responses to specific things because you list specific books/authors, which makes it a lot easier to respond to than overall themes. these're just some responses i have, nothing more.

eshaw's picture

some rambling thoughts...

 Yes, yes, yes…I agree with so much of what has been written in our papers and what has been posted here.  I am still a major proponent of getting an “active” component into this class (“active” being distinct from “activism” which implies a certain kind of radical nature which has been explored a little already…) and I still feel pretty strongly about that. That being said, I don’t think that being “active” has to involve volunteering, protesting, or making any kind of grand, public gesture. I think that just communicating with one another, and taking a moment to digest the content of those exchanges, is a movement towards enacting change (which is a turn of phrase that I use a lot…although the meaning is really quite broad).


Ok, so what?


Basically, I think that we all have some pretty interesting things to say and it’s clear that a lot of us are passionate about it, as well. So, while I think all of the readings and movies and songs and textual works are great, on some level we could all be handed a giant list of this stuff and watch/read/listen to it all on our own. I think that the benefit of being in a class and being surrounded by people of differing opinions and differing backgrounds is that we have a chance to exchange with each other. Sure, we’re doing it right now online but I think that we could bring the personal aspect even further into the class, maybe do what ebock is proposing and frame the class around a kind of “story telling.”


I guess what I’m saying is that no matter what subject matter we choose to study or what we choose to “do” over this second half of class, I want us all to learn from each other, and hear about how each of us take the ideas that we are presented with in class and use them in our own way.

kayla's picture

 I agree completely with

 I agree completely with this. (I'm also kicking myself in the ass right now for missing Tuesday's class because even though I read through all the papers and everything, I missed the in-class discussion and feel out of the loop. So I'm jumping in.) I appreciate Emily's distinction here of being active and activism. I've had so many worthwhile classes that still seemed to miss something in the end, and it was that there was never a real exchange of thought between the students. We interact one-on-one with the professor via essays and responses to texts, but the prospect of initiating something like "story-telling" into our classroom sparks something in me that I've never felt with the usual academic work. Reading texts, for instance what justouttheasylum has proposed below, can be really enlightening and useful to us, but only if we somehow bring it closer to home. I don't want to get rid of the text altogether. I mean, my knowledge of gender and sexuality throughout the world is very narrow, and I'm feeling very distressed about this. In order to delve into these unfamiliar territories we need to have some sort of foundation to start us off, even if afterward we have the opportunity to do some independent research on different cultures that move away from (or build on top of) that foundation. 

Also, I can't believe I didn't mention this before. I read this book awhile ago called Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. It's called a "memoir in books" and details the lives of less than ten women in Tehran who met secretly to read together forbidden books under the Islamic Republic of Iran. From the back cover: "...the girls in Azar Nafisi's living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the world of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James and Vladimir Nabokov." We see into the lives of these women as they deal with their veils, their fathers and brothers and lovers, the men who support them in their education and the problems they face even trying to attend the university.  Something along the lines of this could be a really rewarding read for us and lead into the kinds of discussions we are looking to have. 

Owl's picture

what we want

From reading all the papers posted by my fellow classmates, I found that our different backgrounds, opinions, influences, lives in general and our ideas concerning gender and sexuality and the variation there in, conflict with one another. It is physically impossible to be able to fit everyone's thoughts and ideas into one course. But I think that that in itself is wrong . I mean when one takes a look at the bigger picture, why is it that we seem to encounter all these issues all at once. Why is it that we want to be able to fit it all into one class, when it should have been discussed from childhood. This is where I think all the papers connect: this idea that we must get out of the academic world and explore what we do in class outside. As Cantaloupe stated in her paper, "so what, if I understand the categories of gender, sexuality, etc. that society constantly places on us? what does this mean to me? what do I do?" I think it's so easy to stay stuck in a room, compelled to read up on things we've never learned before or had the privilege of knowing, but it's come to the point where we must realize that these things are either outdated or simply being repeated. We must ask ourselves, "do we simply want to repeat what others have done or move far beyond it?"


This Song to me, illustrates what my fellow classmates and I want to see happen: Change!

rae's picture

this is a class. a great class to be sure,but still just a class

i guess i one i'm thinking about is that i really don't have any particular desire to learn more about men in this class. although i agree with other people that we shouldn't forget that they, k'now, exist, and it's not good that often they're portraying in gen/sex type stuff as either oppressors or as gay men, i think that there are others classes (like Mary Osirim's "Study of Gender in Society) here that discuss men. i'm all in favor of not, as someone said, "rehashing" a bunch of stuff we've learned before or can lean elsewhere. however, i realize that most of the class is interested in learning about masculinity, and i'm okay with that. i agree with Rhapsodica, though, and i think we should remember that masculinity is not the same thing as men/males. masculinity can (and in this case, i think should) be separated from males; masculinity is not just what men do.

as far as activism goes...i really don't know. i'd love to go *do* something, try to make some kind of difference. at the same time, this is a class, and i'm not sure what we can do. and i agree with some of the stuff that Cantalope has said. and i’m not sure how/if we can do something to make this class more than just discussion about this, discussion about that, more of the same stuff we’ve been doing.

and as to the various topics we’re going to cover, part of me is disappointed. and yet, i shouldn’t be because this is a class. and in a class, we can only do so much. and i feel like i’ve already covered a lot of the stuff we want to learn about--men and masculinity, non-US/foreign issues, even a lot of trans/genderqueer stuff. and i’m really really excited about Kate Bornstein, but i’ve already read Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook. and i was really hoping that i’d learn lots of new stuff and really push the boundaries of what i know with this class, and i feel like that’s not going to happen. and i’m not saying this to brag about how much i’ve read or something stupid like that; i’m just trying to say where i’m coming from. and with twenty students, there’s always going to be some compromise, and i totally understand that; i recognize that we can’t base the class around what i want to do (i know that’d be ridiculous). i guess it’s just like Anne was saying about how it’s always the classes/teachers that have the potential to be the most progressive that are the most disappointing. my expectations/hopes were too high, so naturally, the class can’t live up to them. and however class goes, whatever we do, it’ll be fine. it’s just a class. it’ll be interesting. hopefully i’ll learn something. and anything i need (to learn, to discuss, to know, to have), i can get elsewhere. it won’t be the first time that i’ve had to educate myself on gen/sex stuff and find things for myself, and it won’t be the last. i’ll manage. whatever.  

i’m sorry. really, i think this class will be really interesting, and it’ll be good to hear what other people think. i think i can probably learn a lot just from hearing about things from other people’s perspectives. so, whatever we do, it doesn’t really matter. things will be interesting whichever way.


justouttheasylum's picture

Never say 'just'

I can tell rae that you're very interested in topics of gender & sexuality. It's evident through your postings and even more so in the class. And I don't think it's ridiculous to want the class to be based on the things you want to study. Perhaps, a better term would be 'slightly impractical'. The thing is, this class should push the boundaries, maybe just not in the ways in which we are familiar.  I, too, don't want the class to be ruled by discussions of men, because the bottom line is, they already rule our society but I think it does this class a disservice to not include them. We say we want this course to push boundaries, we want to do things differently, well, one things that's for certain is that there are absolutely no men in our class. To remove men from our discussion is equivalent to society's exclusion of women. If this course is to be THE core course for the Gender & Sexuality Program, to not include the other half of our species will not only hinder us but ward off any men interested in learning about these trying issues. Should this class be about the inclusion of men? Hell no. Right now, this class is for us. But I think 'us' really want those that aren't thinking of these issues to start doing so. And that won't happen if we just think of this as 'the same old thing'.
Because it doesn't have to be. When you say 'this is just a class' you reduce our capability of doing. We can do something. Damn it we will do something. Maybe we can have those movie nights once a week that invite intellectual intercourse. Perhaps we can have a forum that contains a section for 'outside sources' and we can get to learn those new things you were interested in. Maybe once a week, we go to different high schools and talk to the students about these issues. This can happen. They all can happen. Because this is not just a class. It's our class. We shouldn't give up.

ebock's picture

my thoughts...

please no history of gen/sex. been there, done that. if that's what you want, take intro to gender and sexuality studies the next time they offer it. i think most of us are interested in moving forward, not back-tracking.

let's please take advantage of lynda barry coming to haverford.

yes to a non-US text, please. i think everyone would really like Zami ... it deals with a lot of the themes that people seem to be interested in.

also: let's talk about class (socio-economic class). i think it runs through a lot our personal experiences and certainly influences our experiences of gender (as well as our racial, national, sexual, etc., experiences) and is an oft neglected theme in academic work.

and just to put in a plug for "live nude girls" - its amazing and vicki funari is still teaching at haverford this semester; let's get her in class, please! she's fantastic and also has done films on other topics (see

i also think that "story-telling" is a great framework b/c if we use film/memoir/language/graphic novel etc. we're looking intentionally at how stories can be told differently.

along those lines --- using queer theory (a la jagose, wilchins, bornstein, sedgwick, etc.) would be a great theoretical framework to parallel our stories/others' stories

dshetterly's picture

Pedagogy and Activism



I’ve recently been thinking a lot about activism and its relationship with my education here at Bryn Mawr. A lot of your papers are voicing the same frustrations I have been having with the isolated nature of our studies and the desire to give what we are learning a grounding in the “real world”.  Part of Bryn Mawr’s slogan is that we as a student body are connected in a “desire to make a meaningful impact on the world” but is this really true? A desire to do something says little about what the actual impact will be. Moreover, a slogan aimed at potential students or donors with the goal of getting money or interest says even less.   I want my college education to shake my shit up, to break down everything I “know” and provide me with the tools to rebuild. Then I want to be able to use my knowledge to make a meaningful contribution to the world.

I just read a really interesting Marxist critique of the college student’s role in society which was produced by a French student group, The Situationist International, in the 1960s. I think a lot of you would like it. One of the arguments that really resonated with me was about pedagogy. “…the important thing is to go on listening respectfully. In time critical thinking is repressed with enough conscientiousness, the student will partake in the wafer of knowledge, the professor will tell him the final truths of the world. …As a matter of course the future revolutionary society will condemn the doings of lecture theatre and faculty as mere noise—socially undesirable. “ Whether or not you choose to believe in the argument that higher education serves as a processing center for our future roles in a capitalist system, I think that pedagogy is a really important thing to think about. If the role of education is to train us for our role as citizens, what does the way we are taught say about what our citizenship should look like? Can a hierarchical, vertical flow of information teach us to actively participate in a democracy?  Can a lack of activeness be partially attributed to academic socialization? How can we relate the implications of the answers to those questions to our class?

I think it is a mistake to assign activism as a project. Mandating it strips it of its purpose and strips us of our agency. If you guys want to be more active, do it! We need to learn how to be active through practice, not by doing it as a project and not by learning the history. I think maybe we should think of ways to incorporate an element of activism into the classroom. I don’t really know how to do this. I’m going to think about it. What do you all think?


Society of the Spectacle?


Society of the Spectacle?Image taken from:


CCM's picture

In conclusion:

I am very excited to explore many of the topics that have been proposed. Several people have mentioned focusing on the history of gender and sexuality and looking at some of the classic texts that define this field. While this is a crucial component of the gen/sex discipline I feel that there are already courses within the BiCo that deal with these topics. Therefore, it would be best to use the rest of the semester to explore more progressive areas in this particular field. With that said most of the papers I read touched upon similar themes. Of these themes I have a personal interest in learning more about the role that popular culture has in influencing contemporary views of gender. Furthermore, it would be great to read some texts written by non-US authors. Besides these texts it would be interesting to use different mediums (such as films, music, performances [Kate Bornstein] etc.) other than books to guide us through our discussions. Lastly, I would really like to come up with a final project that incorporates this notion of “activism” that many people have mentioned.   

Oak's picture

So, patterns, desires,

So, patterns, desires, problems?

I think most of us want to read Kate Bornstein. I definitely think it would be beneficial to do so before seeing her.

I feel like some of us "want to do more," though we have varying definitions of what this means, but some of us would be happy reading and talking and writing. Honestly, that wouldn't be the end of the world for me. It would just mean this class would project me slightly less far down my life path and I'll end up muddling through it on my own.

I feel like we want to expand (outside the US, into other genders, into other identities, into more personal stories). There is, unfortunately, pretty much an infinite number of directions we can go, and I don't know how we can decide. I can't decide, and I'm one person, not twenty.


Also, when I searched Google Images for "gay" to see what popped up, I found this awesome blog (for anyone interested in current gay event type stuff or funny cartoons.)

Anne Dalke's picture

Shades of Roughgarden

The Scientist ran an interesting article this week, called Choosing Sex,
about the "remarkable sexual plasticity" seen in many animals...

LizJ's picture

I like the path we're on

 I agree with Cantaloupe about learning about activism. I don't really see the practicality of learning about activism if we're not in fact active ourselves, but being active is so much more than just going to a "protest." At the same time, it may be useful to figure out these ways in which we can be more active in our lives. I know that sounds contradictory but I think with our limited time in the rest of this class, we should still keep it primarily academic.

I want to get the most out of this class and I think I'll be able to get that through continued class discussion on works that push boundaries. That's why I strongly feel we should continue on the Kate Bornstein path. I think we were able to get a lot out of the fact that we could read Sherry Ortner's work as well as getting to meet and talk with her. And the fact that we found her slightly outdated, I think Kate Bornstein will be a nice breath of fresh air. I have a lot of confidence in being able to see her and I would love to accompany that with one of her books.

I also think that pairing class discussion or readings with pop culture (tv, movies, graphic novels) will bring a real and present feeling to modern day ideas of gender and sexuality which I think would be very beneficial to explore.

Terrible2s's picture



I think that I’d like to maybe read one thing on Kate Bornstein and maybe talk about it a little, but because she is visiting I think she will already have her time. I think we have very limited time and to devote 20% of that time (one week) to one person who we would probably normally have done one reading on is a little excessive. I’m sure I’ll be very impressed with her but maybe we could give her just a reasonable amount of our time and energy.
I would really love to read personal memoirs of any kind, but especially from genderqueer people. I think the class would also really benefit from this because it is an area that most of us are unfamiliar with.
I really would like to learn about non-us gensex. I think the class has definitely expressed interest, and that there are many impt issues to be discussed. Elephants group gave some good suggestions about intl phenomenons which are both relevant and interesting.
I also think what many have said that we don’t have any male (sis or otherwise) voices in this class and it would be interesting to re-introduce us to men! Can we hear about masculinity? Can we hear how men have done other things in this field but be either oppressive or gay? I am a feminist and I mean all due respect...
Lastly I really think we should take this class beyond its academic restrictions. Activism please! Maybe the last week, maybe a project at the end, maybe just a promise to be more involved. I just think it’s so vitally important and that we’re so lucky to be in a school and country in which we can learn about gensex and not be scrutinized (overtly at least).
Anyway, I think all these ideas are great and I hope in some way or other we can all be happy with what is ultimately decided on. 


rae's picture

Kate Bornstein

just a quick comment--we spent roughly three classes each on both Roughgarden's book and Ortner's writings. while we may decide not to spend two classes on Kate Bornstein, i don't think that two classes would *necessarily* be an unreasonable amount of time and energy to spend. 

and this isn't just me being like "i'm super excited about Kate Bornstein! i want the whole class to be about trans stuff!" although i'm not trying to deny that: a) i'm really excited about Kate Bornstein, and b) i'd happily spend the rest of the semester on trans/genderqueer issues. 

how much time we want to spend on Kate Bornstein, if any, is a question we as a class need to decide. maybe we'll only want to devote part of a class, and that's fine. that's reasonable. i'm just trying to say that it would not be prima facie unreasonable to spend two classes on Kate Bornstein, given that we've spent more time on other authors. does that make any sense? am *i* making any sense? i'm aware that sometimes i don't.


Terrible2s's picture

Group Thoughts

 So I know that Anne already took pics of the board but she did designate one person from each group to type up our findings/ desires. Here goes:


Our groups decided that for the 5 weeks (roughly--10 classes, usually 2 per week) that we would have 5 topics. We thought that on the first day of each week or 2-day unit that we would read our texts and discuss them. Tuesdays would be not structured very differently than they are now, with reading due and discussions both within the large group and smaller groups. Thursday, however, would be different. On Thursdays we would do something "hands-on" in the community and/or we would make some sort of a project. This project could be an ongoing one or we could work on a different project per week.

Our topic ideas included (in order):

1. Language

2. Masculinity

3. Transgender/queerness/genderqueerness

4. History/activism/pop culture

5. Non-US


Hope this helps!


twig's picture

masculinity at bmc? admittedly derailed train of thought

let me just throw this out here before i go off on any one thing:

topics i would like to cover:




activism (but please not history, something more dynamic and applicable)

personal narrative

a film

now, something i found interesting when i was thinking about masculinity, was that my first reaction to all the mentions of masculinity in papers was no! no way, nuh uh, i do not want to talk about how men's lives are hard as the ruling species because they have to sometimes uphold macho stereotypes. a friend of mine was in an anxious masculinity csem. as i knew about this was that she read fight club (which i was jealous of) and a book with a ruler on the spine (sooo clever), and that it seemed weird to her and many of us that a class full of frosh women sat around and talked about penises (peni?) and how hard it is for men to carry the privilege that one entitles them to around all day and how it makes them anxious. and then i let my subconscious work on it. and then i realized that no, i don't want to study masculinity in the way we have feminist studies (oh we've been oppressed! why? what are we going to do about it? why is our angst justified?) but that that isn't the only way to go about studying masculinity. and i'm still not sure what the way is. and then i was thinking, i like many things that are considered masculine, and aside from boy pants and sports and all that over hashed stuff, what about pop culture? many of my favourite movies/books/tv shows/etc are masculine-centric and that has nothing to do with why i like them. lets see, i already mentioned fight club so lets go with that. great book, great movie in my opinion, one of my favourites. and i can identify with the rhetoric, tyler durden was my fictional character at the beginning of this class, and i find myself going along with the flow of the film and i never once think, oh but they're all boys, i can't play. but then later it occurs to me, if it were all real, could i really play along? i'm not a boy, do i get to be a space monkey disillusioned underpaid fighting guerilla activist? probably not. and then it bothers me. and this was one of those polluted streams of consciousness, so i guess my point is do women who are women and female and identify with all of that, do they get some part of masculinity? i mean, could you pop women in something like fight club and still make it work? i mean, you try it with rocky and you get million dollar baby as close as i can figure as the 'girl boxer' equivalent. and its not the same, the emphasis is in different places. maybe this comes back to earlier in class with the whole girls/boys teams issue. i don't know, but maybe something in all that rambling can be useful. or maybe thats not masculinity at all and really im right back to feminists wanting to do anything boys can do...better.

cantaloupe's picture

fndnefkfne - to put it eloquently

I agree with Alice, it seems bizarre to me to study activism.  I think the last thing we need is to learn the current social movements.  It's so wrong, it's so, rewnjknvwrh, it's SO FRUSTRATING.  I can't even talk because it's not like I'm out there at protests or whatever.  My dream is that being radical and reckless is a way of life, you know?  It ISN'T just going to a protest.  There isn't even a way that us as a class can live up to my dream.  It's more like a transformation of the college and the people at it.  I hate to even talk about activism in class because it will just disappoint me.  I talked about it with my group, but I think that giving a project about something with activism is a terrible idea because what's worse than not being radical than forced radicalism?  I get what Anne was saying about we can't be too disappointed when we realize that the class won't be our dreams, but disappointment is exactly what I feel.  I think that whatever we do it will be interesting, so I am not dreaded the rest of the semester by any means.  It's just that the ideal in my head never goes away.  I have to just keep hope that even if it isn't here, it is somewhere and I'll find it.  I hope.

The reality of it is - we are going to read books and discuss them in an academic way.  We are trained and that is what we will do.  We will read Kate Bornstein and discuss in our scholarly circle about being transgender.  Even if we watch movies or read graphic novels or poems, we are still going to discuss them academically.  I don't know what else I expect, I'm in school, you know?  I couldn't even exactly tell you what my ideal action would be after watching a movie that touched us all.  Does anyone else feel like I'm feeling?

In terms of the link that Anne put up about smoking is gay - it was pretty funny.  I probably wasn't supposed to find it all that funny being gay and all, but it was funny in the way you laugh when you realize something is true and it's super depressing that it is true.  Those ads would totally stop more people from smoking than the health warnings.  What hormonal teenage boy wants to risk looking like he is gay?  Man alive, what are we going to do with this screwed up world?

Oak's picture


Who said activism was going to protests?

Protests are actually something I've thought about a lot.

The first people to protest in front of the White House were from a woman's sufferage group. Two or three of them would stand quietly, in their best clothes, holding their signs. People thought they were NUTS. They got ARRESTED. Now hordes of smelly hippies* stand in front of the gates waving signs and screaming and nothing happens. It's frustrating. So, yeah, activism is something I want to talk about. I want your ideas. I want to know what we can do to let people know we're freaks and loonies and proud of it.

And, yeah, maybe forced activism was a bad idea. But I felt like the idea of "doing something instead of talking" was brought up a decent amount in class.


*Not saying that all of them are smelly hippies, or that being a smelly hippie is bad.

Alice's picture

Thoughts on masculinity and activism

 After class, I started thinking particularly about two topics the majority of the class is interested in studying: masculinity and activism. I find it interesting that so many of us (including myself!) are interested in exploring masculinity. It seems like our whole lives have been centered around a masculine curriculum- male writers, philosophers, theorists, patriarchal structures, "man"-kind, much of our education has revolved around men. Yet, we finally are given the opportunity to study women- women writers, philosophers, sexuality, the construction of gender, gender roles, etc....and we find ourselves wanting to talk about masculinity. I wonder if this stems for this entirely progressive ideology of feeling that we are closer to understanding women, are essentially "done" talking about women, and now want to analyze men showing that, as women, we are not constricted to analyzing and questioning our own history, but the history of another, a traditionally "superior" other. OR, we could be so used to studying men that we feel like a course that doesn't particularly focus on masculinity at any point would essentially be missing something- something of importance. I would like to think the first option is more applicable, but I'm not so sure...

As for the topic of activism, I started thinking about when Sherry Ortner came to talk to our class. She talked about gaining much of her experience in gender and sexuality outside of the classroom. There were protests, debates, women out in the world voicing their opinions and (as cliche as it sounds...) making a difference. These were the women who have pushed Bryn Mawr into being the place it is today: a place that challenges women academically and encourages us to question traditional gender roles/binaries.  As a class, we agreed it seems to be a bit of the opposite nowadays. We learn all this theory in classrooms about what we need to do to push society forward, yet no one is actually doing anything. It appears to me as if there is a sort of contradiction going on, this nostalgia for the way things were before in terms of activism, yet wanting to progress society further, ask more questions, but...not really doing anything at all. It seems weird to me that a section on activism would need to be included in the curriculum. Shouldn't we be engaging in activities in the outside world as it is? Isn't the whole point of learning in class to take it into your non-academic life? We keep talking about activism being non-existant...I just think it is kind of odd to include "activism" in a class as something to get graded on and that counts for credit. To me activism should exist outside of academia and in the "real" world. I'm not sure if I am being too idealistic...or simply rambling about nothing, but it's just something I've been thinking about. 

Rhapsodica's picture

Alice, First of all, I agree


First of all, I agree with your point about activism! I didn't really think about it that way until I read your posting, but it IS kind of funny that we are asking to involve activism... something that is really "extracurricular"... in the curriculum! I guess that I feel like, in some ways, I don't even know where to start in figuring out how to get involved on my own, and that having a base from a class would give me somewhere to begin. That's not really a good enough explanation, though, since I feel like activism should arise out of someone's genuine desire to change something, and taking an active (hah) role in making it happen, as opposed to having a class assignment... hmm... will have to think on that some more.

As to your question about why we are so adamant about discussing masculinity, I would say that I don't feel like either of your suggestions are what make me, personally, interested in the subject. I certainly don't think we're "done" studying women, but I suppose I am thinking more about the differences in the ways that we've (or at least I've) gone about studying gender in the past. The classes on gender that I've taken so far have been largely focused on women (which I've loved!)--and while I realize that this doesn't mean I'm anywhere near "done" with that, I also feel like we ought to problematize masculinity the same way we often problematize femininity and issues relating to women. Although we may have been studying men and operating within patriarchal structures for much of our lives, I know that I personally was not very conscious that I was doing so and didn't pick up on the inequality of representation until I started getting older. I know that my education, and the world in general, have been very androcentric, but I think it's hard to get the full picture of why and how that happened by just focusing on women--though, as I've said, I think that we SHOULD keep focusing on women, but I also think we need to think of gender more broadly as well.

I feel like it is all the more important to think about the construct of masculinity because, in my experience, it seems to be something that is not as often talked about since we feel like it has been talked about enough. But I think there is a difference between discussing men and discussing masculinity. To me, gender studies is not just about women... it is about everyone on the gender spectrum, and that includes men, women, transgender people, genderqueer people, etc. etc... it's about people, not just one category of them. Yes, our lives have been centered around the masculine in a lot of ways - but I, for one, feel like it would be valuable to deconstruct that. I suppose I don't feel like I'm "done" thinking about men or masculinity, either, because I haven't really thought or theorized about it in the same way that I have about women and femininity. And I feel like in a class on gender and sexuality, it is important for us to think about how we are all impacted by the categories and boxes that we keep recreating; I think it's bigger than just women.

Anne Dalke's picture

"It's gay to smoke"

couldn't resist sharing this "nudge": onion's (of course both tongue in cheek &
troubling) account of  "new anti-smoking ads [that] tell teens it's gay to smoke."

twig's picture

oh how i love the non-pc

 i can honestly (and guiltlessly) say that i found this ridiculously amusing - yes even as a dyke. its probably true, which makes it good satire. kids would care more about being seen as gay than about lung cancer 40 years down the road. but troubling? well, the basis that people think gay is bad is troubling, but its also not exactly news, so an onion clip uses it to make me laugh while also poking fun at it, how bad can the clip be? i think this doesn't perpetuate or create homophobia, but just uses preexisting social stigma to show our societal priorities as ridiculous. so yes i wish that people loved gays and that it wasn't an insult to be seen as gay, but hey, its a pretty hilarious little clip.

Anne Dalke's picture

photographing the dreaming

I tried taking photographs of your collaborative re-dreamings...not the most effective record, but it gives a taste,
and maybe a hands-up as you think through how to narrow down the possibilities yet once again--

Owl's picture

All Around the Spectrum (well at least for the most part)


Hard Candy


Tony Hoagland's Donkey Gospel


Live Nude Girls Unite!, dir. Vicky Funari (Unionizing sex workers)


Myth of Masculinity


Queer Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader (everyone chooses a section and we all read)


Race Against Time (the AIDS Crisis in Africa)


Collections of outside thoughts on every topic discussed in class (whichever appeals to you) (going outside of Bryn Mawr and Haverford and relating to the real world)

-can come up with questions in a forum

Karina's picture

some reflections on today's class and the papers in general...


After reading so many of my classmates papers I was struck by two things.
One: my paper was not explicitly grounded in at least three texts having to do with gender and sexuality, or any texts for that matter, even though (it is now apparent to me that) the assignment called for it. Bummer. My immediate thought was something along the lines of, “well, on its own the paper might have merited a thumbs up all the way but now when placed among these carefully structured and well-thought through (most of them also well-researched, really) papers, it kind of pales by comparison.” It’s funny how my mind immediately went to that place in which the value of my own work could only be read in comparison with the work of others. I immediately forgot my intention behind writing the paper the way I wrote it and proceeded to chastise myself for forgetting to adhere to such a minor criteria as the occasional name-dropping of a couple of texts (or even movies for Christ’s sake!) here and there so that the paper didn’t look like I just dropped some acid and dictated the paper out loud to my roommate’s cat who proceeded to do all the writing.
Then, I stopped and breathed and realized that my state of panic was precisely the reason I wrote the paper in the first place.
I was intrigued by the fact that what we were trying to explore in our class didn’t simply end with the question of content but went beyond that into the realm of pedagogy. This is the first class in which I had even been asked to question whether it may be worthwhile to experiment with the form in which we express what we are learning, to experiment with the how in addition to the what. As I’d mentioned in my posting for last week, there is something inherently frustrating and even maddening in trying to constantly prove rather than simply show that you’ve learned something by carefully adhering to the standard format in which “proof of knowledge” could be accepted for assessment.
So I thought of ways in which that standard structure could be tampered with, challenged, undermined, opened up in a gesture of freedom to step outside of it. My design for the rest of the class purposefully avoided any mention of directive texts. Why return to the text, I though, when I’d just managed to step outside of it in an attempt (I think) to prove its sometime uselessness? To be completely honest, I think the part of me that – in an act of rebellion – decided to look past the prospect of producing yet another conventional paper is the same part that also looked past the details of criteria given in the assignment. I didn’t ignore them because I was lazy. I think I honestly believed that my response was an appropriate one in its honesty; on a certain level I believed that in going back and changing what I’d written to fit the assignment better would have been the undoing of the exercise I’d just performed. In my opinion, one of the goals of this class was to challenge the constructs into which we struggle to fit in daily (maybe without even knowing it). It would’ve taken my act of questioning systems, including the gender binary and that of institutionalized approaches to education, and fitted it neatly back into a system once again. As it stands, my response is sticking out, struggling to fit in, but intentionally so.
Two: I feel confident about whatever syllabus we develop for the rest of the semester. I think that although people’s ideas vary, all of us are ultimately interested in delving more into the areas of queerness, masculinity, and the world-beyond the U.S. I also think all of us are interested in putting what’s we’ve learned into a creative action of some sort – be it a project or a venturing. One thing I would like to caution us against, though, is the trap of history. History is useful and can be really illuminating in terms of putting into context the actions we become responsible for today. However, I think that the general feeling in the class is that we want to move forward, we want to progress, we want to take things to the next level. As someone said today, this class is too important and unconventional to just rehash things in it, to waste it. So when we say we want more insight into “history” we should be careful that we’re not just setting ourselves up for a “history lesson” without a means of moving forward.


dshetterly's picture


  1. Transgender Identity
    • Boys Don't Cry
    • Kate Bornstein (Text up for discussion)
    • Other materials up for discussion
  2. Personal Stories and Ways of Telling Them
    • Lynda Barry- What It Is (Possibility of doing a workshop with her at Haverford)
    • Vicky Funari - Live Nude Girls Unite! (Possibility of a visit from the director)
    • Looking at the products of female rappers
    • Audre Lorde Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
    1. Stories from outside of our world (Materials up for discussion)
  3. Masculinity
    • Material up for discussion
  4. Final Project: Interviews/ Storytelling/ Narrative Exploration??
LizJ's picture

narrowed down once, to be narrowed down again

 Five weeks.

1. Kate Bornstein


-Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws

2. Selected essays from GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary

-Connect with Film/TV (ex. TransGeneration, etc.)

3. Non-US Issues

-Human trafficking



4.Masculinity & Pop Culture

-Men's Lives (Kimmel)

-Disney movies

5. Final Project

-Activism? Creative outlet? (Discuss Thursday)


To be continued...

kjmason's picture

From inside the fishbowl...

Image Taken From SEO bloghighlight 


  • ·      During our discussion with Sherry Ortner she stressed that in order for adequate progress to occur within Gender and Sexuality studies, the department itself would have to be challenged and changed by individual people, consequently changing how it fits, or stands out, among other collegiate disciplines.
  • ·      When discussing incorporating gender neutral pronouns, dress codes, and connotations to certain words, there was one consistent block to every progressive idea my classmates and I thought of: the general public. It is my observation, that no matter how forward thinking a group of people are, a fearful and ill-informed public can forever halt the change necessary to progress.
  • ·      Thus, I recommend that the remainder of the course be dedicated to better understanding the way the spectrum of sexuality, biological diversity, transgenderism, transsexuality and gender neutraility are misunderstood and feared (i.e.: homophobia etc.) by large portions of society. (This would require developing a better understanding of topics such as transgenderism and transsexuality that we haven’t covered in depth. Ideally including a transgender/ transsex guest in class)
  • ·      This vision for the second half of our semester, would culminate in a community education/ analysis project. I propose, the class go to a local highschool and present the things that we have learned in class to some young growing minds and we observe their reaction to what we have to say. It’s most likely that a private school would be more able to accommodate this, but a coed private school (sorry Baldwin!) would benefit most from this, considering males are generally more resistant to gender and sexuality variation.
  • ·     Even though this is only educating the public on a small scale, it also is bringing attention to the possibility of studying gender and sexuality formally.  


I also would like to recommend the following books:

Sexual conduct: the social sources of human sexuality by John H. Gagnon, William Simon

America on film: representing race, class, gender and sexuality at the movies by Harry M. Benshoff, Sean Griffin

Gender and Sexuality: critical theories, critical thinkers by Chris Beasley

A critical introduction to queer theory by Nikki Sullivan

And the short essay:

"Introduction: Interesections of Gender, Race, Class and Sexuality" by Gillian Creese and Daiva Stasiulis